A federal grand jury indicted former Los Angeles Angels communications director Eric Kay on Thursday on charges related to the 2019 death of pitcher Tyler Skaggs.
According to the indictment, Kay, who told federal agents he provided drugs to Skaggs, is charged with distributing a controlled substance that resulted in Skaggs’ death and for possessing with the intent to distribute the opioid fentanyl.
Skaggs was found dead July 1, 2019, after asphyxiating on his own vomit, and an autopsy found oxycodone, ethanol and fentanyl in the pitcher’s system. Skaggs was 27. Law enforcement officials have told ESPN they believe Skaggs snorted oxycodone and was likely unaware it contained the fentanyl, a powerful and deadly drug sometimes added to other drugs to make the effects more potent.
According to a 2019 ESPN investigation, Kay told U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents last year he had given Skaggs several oxycodone pills before the team left for a series in Texas, where Skaggs died, and that the two had an ongoing arrangement by which Skaggs paid for their drugs and Kay obtained them from dealers.
Kay told investigators that he saw Skaggs snort oxycodone in his hotel room the night he died, but that he did not believe the drugs Skaggs took that night were the same ones Kay had given him before the trip. Kay told agents that one line of the crushed pills was not a substance he recognized.
Prosecutors said in August they planned to charge Kay with drug-related distribution offenses, but at the time did not indicate they would charge him in Skaggs’ death. At the time, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas issued a statement that said that after Skaggs’ autopsy, “it was later ascertained that but for the fentanyl, Mr. Skaggs would not have died.”
Asked who had made that determination and when, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in August she could not comment. An official with the Tarrant County Medical Examiner told ESPN in August that the office had made no such determination, was not aware of a subsequent autopsy, and did not know how prosecutors had reached that conclusion.
Several defense attorneys interviewed by ESPN said they see several hurdles for the government to overcome in a case against Kay, starting with the fact that prosecutors will have to establish that the fentanyl or oxycodone killed Skaggs, as opposed to the grain alcohol in his system or some other factor. The lawyers also said the government will have to show that the drugs Kay admitted giving to Skaggs were the same ones the pitcher took the night he died.
A spokesperson for the U.S Attorney’s Office and Kay’s attorney, Michael Molfetta, did not immediately return phone calls Friday.
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